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Privatisation of our schools?!

13 December 2011 7 comments

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This bizarre policy was never presented to the public during the recent election campaign and is a patent privatisation-by-stealth.

National are implementing this crazy right wing policy as a time when New Zealanders are tired  of politics and the Christmas shopping season is nearly upon us.

It is also the time when the news media winds down.

In effect, National and ACT are pushing a quasi-privatisation agenda far greater in scope than anything John Key disclosed to the public.

The questions that now beg to be asked are,

  • How far is National planning to go in this second term?
  • What else is on the block for privatisation or semi-privatisation?
  • Will socially conscious, liberal-minded National MPs accept this? Or will one or two balk at this a-bridge-to-far step?
  • Will schools accept this extreme policy? Or will we be seeing wide-scale resistance to this policy in the education sector?

How will National hope to implement such a controversial policy when they had considerable opposition to National Standards?

And what mandate does National have for such a plan? The answer is: none whatsoever.

What is even more paradoxical is that “Charter Schools” is an American concept – and yet their education system lags far behind ours in a recent OECD report,

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Full Story

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New Zealand came seventh on the OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance, just below Canada and Singapore.

Our American cuzzies, by contrast, came fifteenth-equal with Poland and Iceland. The full rankings list can be seen here.

The obvious question that springs to mind is; why is National pursuing an education programme from a country that is lower down on an international ranking-list of educational outcomes? What possible gain is there from borrowing a system from a country that has worse outcomes than we do?

And why stop at a US system? Why not follow Kyrgyzstan, which is at the bottom of the OECD scale?

The only answer is that  National’s intention to adopt this dubious programme is based on ideology and nothing more. Like partial asset sales, National is banking on the free market and competition to improve education outcomes for our  low decile schools.

A laudible goal – but choosing a programme from a country that has education outcomes worse than ours? That is simply insane. Especially when, according to at least one comprehensive study, “Charter Schools” produce minimal improvements to education outcomes.

Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide. On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small

[abridged]

…Perhaps most revealing is the distribution of charter school effects relative to their immediate TPS comparison groups. Realistically, the relative standard of performance – whether charter schools are producing student outcomes that are at least as good as the schools in their community – is a fairly low threshold.

This study provides a level playing field for that test. The Quality Curve shows that there are a substantial number of charter schools that provide superior and outstanding results for their students; 17 percent of the charters in this study deliver learning gains that are better than the results that their TPS peers   achieve. These schools fulfill the promise of charter schools — both for the students they educate and for their collective demonstration that such schooling is feasible.

But the good news of the top performers is diminished by the preponderance of charter schools that do not perform to that high level. Thirty‐seven percent of the charters in this study produce learning gains that are significantly worse than what equivalent TPS students accomplish. This proportion is both alarming and regrettable. These underperformers put the better charter schools and the more general charter school promise at risk.” – Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, CA – http://credo.stanford.edu – June 2009

Yet again, we have a right wing government motre interested in  ideology than common sense.

“Charter schools” appears to be part of National’s secret agenda to transform schools into quasi-business models and transfer responsibility for management from the State, to private enterprise and organisations.

Our own educators seem thoroughly unimpressed,

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Full story

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But even our American cuzzies seem to be viewing “Charter Schools” with suspicion,

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Full Story

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What are we going to cut and how’s that going to impact our students? How many teachers are we going to have to lay off, how many Kaplan programs are we going to get rid of, how many early childhood education programs are we going to have to cut?” asked Unified Board member David Reeves. Ibid

It seems that “Charter Schools” are not simply intended for low socio-economic areas.  Parents living in more affluent suburbs should take note of what may lie in store for them,

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Full Story

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Parents in Remuera, Khandallah, and Fendalton should take note, perhaps?

As with so many New Right “reforms”, it appears that ideology outweighs common-sense and communities are left to deal with the consequences of policies that have dire consequences and questionable outcomes.

This is the experiment that National is planning to dump on us.

The next three years will not be a happy time for this country, I fear.

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Additional

Listen to a representative of principals on Radio NZ Checkpoint

TVNZ Close-Up:  What is so special about Onehunga High School?

OECD’s latest PISA survey of education performance

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

Report: Charter School Performance in 16 States, CREDO, Stanford University, CA, USA

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

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Some thoughts on MMP…

13 December 2011 20 comments

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Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, helps to put up one of the first MMP billboards for the Keep MMP Campaign.

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With the referendum over, and the New Right assault on MMP defeated, it’s time to have a look at proposals  for changes to MMP…

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Waka-jumping Law

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It’s been suggested that we need a new “waka jumping” Law to prevent MPs from leaving their political party, once elected into Parliament.

This was a considerable problem in the 1996-99 Parliament, where MPs were deserting their home-Parties at a dizzying speed; Alemain Kopu from The Alliance; and eight MPs from NZ First.

However, since then, it has not been a problem and we’ve not seen such defections for over a decade. Two notable exceptions,

Turia, a junior minister, once informed that voting against the government would appear “incompatible” with holding ministerial rank, announced on April 30, 2004 her intention to resign from the Labour Party. Her resignation took effect on May 17, and she left parliament until she won a by-election in her Te Tai Hauauru seat two months later.” – Wikipedia

Hone Harawira’s  resignation from the Maori Party caused the Te Tai Tokerau by-election, held on 25 June 2011, which he won with a majority of 1117.”

My view is that a Waka Jumping Law is not required as  both Turia and Harawira resigned from Parliament, forcing by-elections which they both won.

Furthermore, there may come a time when an MP leaves his/her Party because a policy change is so radical and inimical to their Party’s original manifesto, that they cannot in good conscience continue to be a member.  Jim Anderton’s resignation from the Rogernomics-dominated Labour Government of the 1980s is a clear example.

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5% threshold

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There has been suggestion that the 5% threshold for Parties to gain seats in Parliament is too high.

In some countries that use various system of proportional representation, the thresholds are set low or are non-existant.  In Israel, the threshold is 2% (previously 1%). In Italy, the threshold is 4%.

If we lower the threshold, expect one or two additional smaller parties to win seats in Parliament. For example  (if my math is correct),

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Actual and Potential Seats Allocation in Parliament under Actual 5% Threshold and Possible 4% Threshold:

2008 General Election – Actual Results – 5% Threshold

Seats

2008 General Election – Theoretical Results – 4% Threshold

Seats

National

58

55

Labour

43

42

Green Party

9

9

ACT

5

5

Maori Party

5

5

Jim Anderton

1

1

Peter Dunne

1

1

NZ First

0

5

Total Seats in Parliament

122

123

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Under a 4% threshold, the addition of five seats for NZ First changes the seat allocations for National and Labour, and alters the dynamics of possible Coalition arrangements,

National + ACT + Dunne = 61

Labour + Greens + NZF = 57

The five Maori Party’s  seats becomes critical and effectively a “king maker” in this scenario,

National + ACT + Dunne + 5 MP = 66

Labour + Greens + NZF = 57

or

Labour + Greens + NZF + 5 MP = 62

National + ACT + Dunne = 61

Personally, I’m neutral when it comes to a 5% or 4% threshold, as both allow for representation for reasonable number of voters.

However, I would not favour a lower threshold, as that becomes overly complicated with numerous smaller parties gaining seats.

Voters are concerned enough with the mythical “tail-wagging-the-dog” bogeyman, without adding just cause to their misinformed belief. I would want to see MMP embedded more solidly in our collective consciousness before going below a 4% threshold.

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Electorate Seat Threshold/Dispensation

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As well as the 5%  Party threshold, there is a secondary “threshold” – the Electorate Seat Win.

As the law currently stands, a Party must win 5% of the Party Vote to gain seats in the House. But, if a small Party wins an Electorate Seat, the 5% threshold is dispensed with. Extra MPs, from the small party’s Party List can enter Parliament, on the “coat tails” of the Electorate MP’s success.

(Hence why National supported John Banks’ efforts to win Epsom. )

This curious situation can result in the contradictory result where, in 2008, NZ First won 4.07% of the Party Votes – but gained no seats in Parliament because they did not cross the 5% threshold. At the same time, ACT won 3.65% of the Party Vote (less than NZ First) – but gained five seats in Parliament; one electorate and four Party List seats.

Because ACT’s Rodney Hide  had won an Electorate Seat, they gained a dispensation for the 5% threshold, and Hide brought four extra MPS into Parliament as a result.  (3.65% Party votes = 5 seats in Parliament)

It seems  manifestly unfair that ACT’s 85,496 Party Votes translated into 5 seats in Parliament – but NZ First’s 95,356 Party Votes got them no seats at all (because they didn’t cross the 5% threshold or win an Elecorate Seat).

It is my belief that the Electorate Seat Threshold/Dispensation be done away with. There seems no practical rationale for it’s existance and merely serves to throw up contradictory inconsistancies such the the example above.

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Electorate Candidates vs Party List Candidates

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This may well be the major debating issue for any reform of MMP; whether or not candidates should be able to stand for both an Electorate Seat and on the Party List as well.

Currently, a candidate for Party X can stand as an Electorate Candidate as well as have their name on his/her party’s Party List. Or, the same same may stand only as an Electorate Candidate – but not appear on the Party List. Or vice versa.

Some people have suggested that having a candidate stand in both an Electorate and on the Party List is somehow “undemocratic”. The most common disparagement is that “losing candidates sneak back in on the Party List“.

I disagree.

Not only is that criticism indicative of a lack of understanding of how MMP works – I suggest it is, in itself, a “sneaky” harking back to the days of FPP (First Past the Post), where the “winner takes all”.

Judging by electorate-by-electorate results, those who oppose MMP tend to be National Party supporters,

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Electorates that voted to Change from MMP

Electorate Vote to Keep MMP Vote to Change from MMP Preferred Alternative Winning Candidate
Bay Of Plenty

49.50%

50.50%

FPP – 48.4%

Tony Ryall (Nat)
Clutha-Southland

44.60%

55.40%

FPP – 58.1%

Bill English (Nat)
Helensville

46.60%

53.40%

FPP – 44.4%

John Key (Nat)
Hunua

46.40%

53.60%

FPP – 49.4%

Paul Hutchinson (Nat)
Kaikoura

49.60%

50.40%

FPP – 52.5%

Colin King (Nat)
North Shore

49.40%

50.60%

FPP – 37.9%

Maggie Barry (Nat)
Rangitata

48.30%

51.70%

FPP – 57.9%

Jo Goodhew (Nat)
Rodney

46.40%

53.60%

FPP – 44.9%

Mark Mitchell (Nat)
Selwyn

49.40%

50.60%

FPP – 50.8

Amy Adams (Nat)
Tamaki

47.30%

52.70%

FPP – 38.1

Simon O’Connor (Nat)
Taranaki-King Country

46.70%

53.30%

FPP – 53.3%

Shane Ardern (Nat)
Tukituki

49.80%

50.20%

FPP – 49.3%

Craig Foss (Nat)
Waikato

47.60%

52.40%

FPP – 52.1%

Lindsay Tisch (Nat)
Waitaki

47.60%

52.40%

FPP – 55.3%

Jacqui Dean (Nat

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Electorates that voted to Keep MMP – By Narrow 1%-4% Margin

Electorate Vote to Keep MMP Vote to Change from MMP Preferred Alternative Winning Candidate
Coromandel

50.30%

49.70%

FPP – 52.3% Scott Simpson (Nat)
East Coast Bays

51.30%

48.70%

FPP – 42.2% Murray McCully (Nat)
Epsom

50.10%

49.90%

SM – 35.9% John Banks (ACT)
Invercargill

50.80%

49.20%

FPP – 58.1% Eric Roy (Nat)
Napier

51.40%

48.60%

FPP – 49.3% Chris Tremain (Nat)
Northland

52.00%

48.00%

FPP – 50.8% Mike Sabin (Nat)
Pakuranga

51.10%

48.90%

FPP – 42.9% Maurice Williamson (Nat)
Rangitikei

50.70%

49.30%

FPP – 51.1% Ian McKelvie (Nat)
Taupo

50.50%

49.50%

FPP – 52.0% Louise Upston(Nat)
Tauranga

51.50%

48.50%

FPP – 45.9% Simon Bridges (Nat)
Waimakariri

51.10%

48.90%

FPP – 53.3% Kate Wilkinson (Nat)
Wairarapa

50.50%

49.50%

FPP – 51.9% John Hayes (Nat)

Sources for Data

Electorate Status

Referendum Data

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Not one single electorate that returned a Labour candidate voted to change from MMP.

Which is ironic, considering that the candidates who “sneak back in on the Party List” often tend to be National candidates – and often quite high ranking ministerial ones, at that.

Two cases-in-point; Paula Bennet (Nat) and Hekia Parata (Nat),

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Waitakere: Electorate & Party Vote Results

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Candidate Electorate Votes Party Votes Result
Carmel Sepuloni (Lab)

13,468

11,577

Electorate win to Lab
Paula Bennett (Nat

13,457

12,534

Party Vote win to Nat
Difference

Sepuloni +11

Bennett +957

Source for data

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Mana: Electorate & Party Vote Results

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Candidate Electorate Votes Party Votes Result
Kris Faafoi (Lab)

16,323

12,999

Electorate win to Lab
Hekia Parata (Nat)

14,093

13,754

Party Vote win to Nat
Difference

Faafoi +2,230

Parata +755

Source for data

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In both cases, each candidate did well, winning in separate categories of either Electorate Votes or Party Votes.

If  candidates were prevented  from standing in both Electorate and on Party Lists, then had Parata and Bennett stood only in their respective Electorates, both would be out of Parliament.

There appears to be no rational reason to ban candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms – except that it appears to be a reactionary resentment from some partisan voters against unsuccessful Electorate candidates from making it into Parliament – even though those same candidates appear to win more Party Votes than their opponants.

Claiming that Bennett and Parata have  “sneaked back in on the Party List” ignores the fact that both women won more Party Votes than their opponants. In effect, Bennett and Parata  earned their right to be returned to Parliament.

We should also consider that banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms could have unintended consequences;

  • Creating an unnecessary division between List and Electorate candidates that would serve no useful purpose, except to satisfy heavily partisan voters.
  • A return to the concept of “safe seats”, where prominent/popular candidates would stand in such “safe seats”, and less popular/prominent candidates would be nominated for more marginal seats, making  strategic placings of candidates  more likely.
  • More highly valued candidates would be List only candidates, as Parties would not want to risk losing certain talents on risky Electorate contests.
  • A marginalisation of List candidates at Electorate candidates-meetings. One might envisage community meetings where Electorate candidates are invited to address the public – but List Candidates are not, as they are not seen to “represent” any particular geographic area.

It appears to me that banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms actually creates unnecessary separation and  reduces our choice of candidates.

People who promote banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms may actually be shooting themselves in the foot. They may find that far from making MMP fairer, such an arbitrary separation of Electorate and List candidacies may have unintended consequences that they may regret.

Judging by comments on various internet Forums, it appears that most proponants of banning candidates from standing on both Electorate and Party List platforms are partisan National voters. They should take a moment to consider that at least two  high ranking Ministers (as well as others such as Chris Finlayson and Kate Wilkinson, in 2008) would no longer be in Parliament if  List and Electorate candidacies were separated.

As usual, the  Law of Unintended Consequences applies.

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Related stories

Public’s views on MMP must be heard

How to fix MMP

Electoral Commission: Results by Electorate for the 2011 Referendum on the Voting System

Electoral Commission: Official Count Results – Electorate Status


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